Caer by itself is usually used when something falls. When raindrops fall, when teeth fall out, etc.
Caerse is more like to fall down or to fall over.
One interesting thing about Spanish is that when you drop something, you say "Se me cayó..." which literally translated would mean "it fell itself from me". But that's how they say it. More blame on the object and less personal guilt ;)
Well, we say "Se me ha caído" when it fall by accident. If I drop it I'll say "Lo he tirado" They are two things completely different ;-)
Oh, good point! "Lo he tirado" is to drop on purpose, like dropping a dirty shirt into a basket. Is that correct?
I sort of remember this construction from high school, but would it also be acceptable to say "va a caerse"?
Yes, attaching the "se" to the end of the infinitive like you did is acceptable.
If it's to fall over, then why wouldn't "the building will collapse" be a good translation?
Your examples are correct in their usage, but your reasoning is incomplete. As mentioned above, the reflexive form means "to fall down" (i.e. to topple, to collapse), the simple form means "to fall" (i.e. to plummet).
Interested in this issue, I looked up many online discussions on the topic, and I must say, the answers are very unsatisfactory, with almost every person having their own ideas how those are separated. Frustrated, I simply went straight to the primary source, which is, of course, Real Academia Espanola:
And this is what we find -- whenever you use "caerse", you can use "caer" instead, but not the opposite, that is, "caerse" only covers a subset of all the possible meanings of "caer" (1, 2, 3 and 5 in the given link); it is more specific, and concerns itself only with physical objects falling.
With this in mind I'm confident to say that I was not wrong, but not exactly right either. When you talk about moving down due to gravity, both "caer" and "caerse" are correct. However, when you talk about abstract things and decrease in quantity, only "caer" and not "caerse" may be used.
Sorry for editing over my previous response, but I felt that this was much more correct and precise as I did more research on the topic, and thus more valuable.
Ah, I see what you mean. And no need to apologize, it's better to edit out our mistakes so that newcomers aren't confused. I have also edited my post.
So, I looked at your RAE link and am sad to say that it's not quite that simple. I'm sad because I was hoping it would be.
Alas, item #29, for example, relates only to the pronominal form. Also, a number of verbals that use caerse are clearly figurative and one is even a colloquialism.
I do get your main point, however, and it seems a good rule of thumb for all but a few exceptions. I commend you for taking the time to research and report what you learned here.
I think the better question is why do we need this sentence? LOL Maybe, we are speaking of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
This is translated as "The building is going to fall" (rather than "The building is going to collapse"). As a native English speaker, I would only say "The building is going to fall" if it were, for example, on the edge of a cliff and the cliff was crumbling away underneath it. (I am from California, where this scenario actually happens along the coast). Otherwise, I would use "collapse".
In Spanish is common to hear people using "caer" in this context, but I think like you, "collapse" (derrumbar) seems more appropriate: El edificio se va a derrumbar = The building is going to collapse. Just saying, in case you wanted a better translation for that ;]
Interesting. Because I too am a native english speaker and I'd be WAY more likely to say "the building is going to fall down", might say "the building is going to fall", and fairly unlikely to say "the building is going to collapse"!
It's always so interesting to see what different people think of as the common way to say something because it can vary so much! :)
"The building is going to fall down" sounds better that what Duolingo give I think.
I put "The building is going to fall down" and it was accepted as correct. 3 Jan 2013. So maybe it has been reported and updated.
I imagine a video game where somebody is trying to destroy a building and the destroyer says "The building is going to fall" ... so for anybody doing mischief, there you go
I couldn't agree more, dosgardenias, but DL doesn't: "collapse" was rejected (19/08/16). I can't imagine why. Have reported it, for what that's worth ...
I had the same question, I suppose it's because most buildings wouldn't really fall "over", they would collapse in mostly the same area. That's still a pretty minor thing though, in my opinion.
It's mentioned above that there's a true word for "to collapse" in Spanish, "caerse" is simply "to fall".
Yes, but "collapse" is the word that would be used by natives (as mentioned in this thread) as "a falling building" (from the sky?) doesn't make much sense, so I think it should be accepted (still not accepted as of 30/04/2015).
Well.. I'm a native speaker of English, and I find both "collapse" and "fall" acceptable, however, my point was that "collapse" is not the proper translation of "caerse". You can still report it though, Duo may decide to later accept it.
"Edifice" should also be accepted as a translation for "edificio" since an edifice is a building.
I saw the discussion on caer and caerse but it doesn't explain why the se is needed in this sentence. So I am still curious too.
When you use caerse instead of caer, you are emphasizing the accidental nature of the fall. http://spanish.about.com/od/verbs/a/caer-vs-caerse.htm
Caution: Do not confuse the accidental emphasis of caerse with the accidental se, as in: 'se me caen las llaves' = 'my keys fell on me' (think in terms of... my car broke down on me.) I mention this because caerse is often used with the accidental se (also called no fault se.)
When you use caer instead of caerse, you "can emphasize either the point of departure or arrival: el meteoro cayó del cielo 'the meteor fell from the sky', el tigre cayó sobre su presa 'the tiger fell on its prey', el avión cayó aquí 'the plane fell here'." However, "It is also used when the point of departure is taken for granted: caía una lluvia fuerte 'heavy rain was falling'." (A new Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish 4th ed. p.378) So, according to this book, you can use caer to emphasize the departure or arrival point of the falling thing, or you can use it when the departure or arrival point is taken for granted. Lol, it hurts my brain. This book also lists some idiomatic uses, which i will only type out upon request.
I mostly think the difference is emphasis, and that emphasis must be hard to explain because if you search for caer vs. caerse, you will find a lot of varying opinions.
Here are two rabbit holes for you to explore:
Oh, come on! 'The building is going to fall down is acceptable' BUT 'The building's going to fall down is wrong' ??!!
I understand caerse but why is se in front of va? We are using ir + infinitive, so why not va caerse?
You can say it either way. Both "se va a caer" and "va a caerse" are acceptable grammatically.
I accidentally put "the building falls" instead of "the building is going to fall" because I read it too fast, but when it told me I was wrong, it told me that the correct translation was "the building's fall." I don't understand; that doesn't seem right at all.
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It isn't reflexive. It's pronominal. The pronominal form is just a little more emphatic or complete. Some have suggested it's like the difference between "fall" (caer ) and "collapse" (caerse ), which I think is a good way to think about it in this sentence.
No, it's not really about intentionality. As I said, the pronominal form just adds a little more emphasis. You see the same thing with other verbs like "sentar " and "comer."